Queen Henry arrives in England

HenriettaMariaofFrance02.jpgHenrietta Maria was fifteen when she married King Charles I – she didn’t speak any English. When she set sail for her new home Marie de Medici, gave her a letter to keep with her. It was a manual for how a good queen and Catholic should behave. Essentially she was to ensure protocol was maintained, not displease her husband and labour ensure he became a good Catholic in order to care most effectively for her new subjects.

There was also the small matter of her retinue.  Her confessor was horrified that in order to please her husband she ate on a fast day.  Her ladies were horrified when she travelled to Canterbury from Dover in a carriage containing the king and some of the Duke of Buckingham’s female relations – thus flouting French etiquette.  Who would have thought the simple matter of a short journey through Kent could  cause a diplomatic incident?

Personally the royal pair seemed well enough pleased with one another but the problems soon came crowding in and the honeymooners became distinctly disgruntled.  Charles had promised that Henrietta should be served only by Catholics.  He appointed some Protestants to her household – which did not please the French nor for that matter were there any Catholic chapels in any of her new homes.  Charles had promised her the right to worship as she chose in the privacy of whichever residence they happened to be in. The Escrit Secret which Charles had agreed along with the public marriage contract also promised a suspension of the recusancy laws.  It can’t have been very reassuring when some of Henrietta’s own servants were arrested under the laws which had most definitely not been suspended.

Meanwhile MPs were concerned that the king had married a Catholic princess which they felt was the thin end of the wedge.  It wouldn’t be long, they reasoned, before Protestantism would suffer.  The marriage treaty (not the secret one) had not been made fully public so they were suspicious about its contents. They wondered what Buckingham had agreed.  They were not happy about the presence of Catholic priests.

Unfortunately the name Henrietta Maria was too foreign sounding and so the queen was anglicised and prayed for every Sunday. At first there was an attempt to call her Queen Henry but ultimately Queen Mary was settled upon, reminding everyone of the previous Queen Mary and the fires at Smithfield where Protestant martyrs were killed.  Somewhat optimistically there was a hope that the queen would convert- but it rapidly became clear that she was staunch in her beliefs – in fact it wasn’t long before the rumour mill was talking about excess devotion, such as penitential bare feet, that was quite frankly not very queenly to a Protestant mindset.

In London the plague broke out and the Duke of Buckingham tried to have his mother and wife appointed to the Queen’s household. There were more complaints about who was travelling in the royal coach. The French, once the court had arrived at its chosen destination, objected to Buckingham’s wife because she was Protestant and somewhat bizarrely Charles objected to Buckingham’s mother because she was Catholic.  Buckingham became exasperated and insulted the French.  It was not a good sign that the King’s favourite and his wife were at odds with one another. The private matter might have been resolved had Parliament suspended the recusancy laws when it next sat but it didn’t.

It was very clear to Henrietta that Buckingham was a bit of a weasel. Buckingham had now managed to irritate everyone in this post apart from his mother and King Charles. The latter would dissolve parliament rather than risk his friend’s arrest. Meanwhile the French, as a whole, were disgruntled not only about the whole coach travel business but about the way that the marriage treaty had been metaphorically ridden over by a coach and horses.   Henrietta’s confessor, Father Bérule, had come to believe that he and Henrietta were surrounded by heretics – so he encouraged her to become ever more pious and austere in her faith.  She had after all been taught by Carmelite nuns.

Henrietta was fed up of trundling around the countryside to escape the plague and having arguments about who should travel with her. It probably didn’t help that assorted  Catholic priests and subjects approached her with tales of  unfair treatment.

She now gave Charles a very cold shoulder indeed or as Charles termed it “eschewing my company.”  Even in that instance things could perhaps have been resolved had the Duke of Buckingham not taken it upon himself to enter the queen’s bedchamber late at night to  berate her for her lack of wifely duty…on more than one occasion.

Marie de Medici sent a letter telling her daughter to behave a little more diplomatically. Father Bérule was sent back to France but in his stead Father Sancy was appointed.  On one rather epic occasion, whilst staying in Titchfield, Charles’ chaplain started to say grace but was interrupted by Sancy with his grace. Grace descended into a prayer and shoving contest which Charles eventually resolved by rising from the table, taking his wife by the hand and leaving the clerics to their squabble.

It did not bode well.

 

Whitaker, Katie. (2010) A Royal Passion. London: Orion

 

HenriettaMariaofFrance02.jpg

Henrietta Maria – daughter and diplomatic pawn

Queen_Henrietta_Maria_as_a_child_by_Frans_Pourbus_the_Younger_1611.jpgHenrietta Maria, pictured at the start of this post, was born in 1609 at the Louvre.  She was the youngest daughter of Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici.  Henry had become Henry III of Navarre in 1572.  He was to become the first Bourbon king of France.  Somewhat ironically given the reverence she placed upon her father’s memory, Henry was a Huguenot although he had been baptised a Catholic.  He was fortunate to escape the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572 – an event witnessed by Sir Francis Walsingham who was the English Ambassador in Paris at the time.  Henry would go on to become King of France in 1589 – taking on the Catholic League to become the only Protestant king that France ever had but in 1593 to bring civil unrest to an end he returned to Catholicism.  The Edict of Nantes passed in 1598 granted religious toleration to the Huguenots.  Unsurprisingly perhaps, Henry was neither popular with Catholics who regarded him as a protestant usurper nor with Protestants who saw him as a traitor to his beliefs – he is famously supposed to have said that Paris was worth a mass. It was only after his death that he turned into Good King Henry.

Marie de Medici was Henry’s second wife.  They married in 1600.  Marie was born in Tuscany in 1573 and the marriage with Henry was helped along by a large dowry. The year after their marriage Marie provided Henry with an heir – Louis.  She would have five more children before Henry was assassinated in 1610.  She would go on to rule as regent for her son Louis XVIII.  Even if the marriage between the pair was a matter of state, Henry had other consolations – approximately 54 of them- making Henry VIII seem positively restrained! Diane D’Andoins was just one of the mistresses who stood the test of time.

So- back to Henrietta Maria.  When she arrived 25th November 1609 her parents were disappointed that she was a girl. They had hoped for a legitimate spare to go with the heir. Henry was troubled by his wife’s desire for a more pro-Spanish policy whilst he himself was infatuated with Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency. She was the seventeen-year-old wife of his own nephew, Henry Prince of Conde.

Henrietta was sent off to join nursery of assorted legitimate and illegitimate brothers and sisters at the Chateau of St Germain. Once there she was lumped together with all the younger siblings so history doesn’t necessarily see her with great clarity during her early childhood. It is perhaps unfair to record Henry’s grumpiness about the fact that she was a girl.  We know from other correspondents that he spent time with all his children  in St Germain. He declared them to be the most beautiful children and that the time he spent with them as the happiest.

We know Henrietta attended her mother’s coronation and her father’s funeral. She was a princess and had the qualities that princesses were supposed to have; she was beautiful, she loved music, painting and dancing.  She was given religious instruction by Carmelite nuns.

henrietta maria pourbus.jpg

It wasn’t long before she learned that princesses had an important diplomatic role to fulfil.  On November 9th 1615, about the time the above portrait was painted by Frans Pourbus, she was at Bordeaux to see her sister Elizabeth who married   Philip of Spain whilst the Infanta Ana became her brother Louis’s bride.  Anne of Austria as she is better known holds her own place in England’s Seventeenth Century history and a spot in the heart of all Alexander Dumas fans.  In reality she was one of the ties that helped bind the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs together in Maria de Medici’s pro-Spanish policy.

Meanwhile in France, politics and family life were a dangerous cocktail.  In 1617 Marie de Medici found herself ousted from her role as regent and sent to Blois whilst her favourite, and foster sister,  Leonora Dori the wife of Concino Concini  was executed. Concini was killed by a Paris mob.  It should be noted that Marie had remained regent despite the fact that Louis was an age to rule for himself.  The murder of Concini was ordered by Louis and just for good measure he reversed his mother’s pro-Spanish policy. Marie would remain in Blois until she escaped in 1619 and she wouldn’t regain political power until the death of the Ducky de Luynes. The removal of Marie drew Louis and Anne closer together.  Up until this point she had not learned much French, still dressed in the Spanish fashion and was a wife in name only. The Ducky de Luynes encouraged Louis to spend time with his wife.

Henrietta was with her mother at Blois but once Henrietta’s sister Christine was married off to the Duke of Savoy – Henrietta assumed a more important role.  She was the remaining dynastic pawn on the board of continental politics. In 1619 Henrietta was moved from Blois to the Louvre. By 1620 prospective husbands were under discussion.  She was eleven.

Cardinal Richelieu was keen on an English alliance for political reasons of his own but he would make his move in due course. The current driver for the wedding was the Duc de Luynes, the favourite and boy hood friend of Louis XVIII.  At this point, James I of England who had married his own daughter Elizabeth off to Frederick V of the Palatinate was determined on a Spanish match for his remaining son, Charles.  Du Buisson was dispatched to London on the Ducky de Luynes’ orders ostensibly to purchase horses for the Prince of Conde’s stables. The French Ambassador at the English court, Comte de Tillieres was instructed to introduce Du Buisson at court where he was turned down flat by King James.  The ambassador was able to assure King James that the proposal was unofficial because it hadn’t come through the proper channels i.e. him.  De Tillieres also stated that French princesses weren’t hawked around the countryside but that monarchs made their way to France in the hope that a French princess might be bestowed upon them.

This was unfortunate as de Luynes then sent his own brother to make another proposal.  Inevitably the Duke of Buckingham became involved with the envoys and there was insult on both sides rounded off by the Spanish ambassador getting in on the act to move the Spanish match forwards another couple of paces.

At home in France after de Luynes’ death  Marie de Medici was busy sowing discord between her son and his wife, Anne of Austria. Anne, sidelined and unhappy, sought entertainment and relied upon her favourite Marie de Rohan-Montbazon.

In short, life was complicated for Henrietta Maria even as a child.

Pearce, Dominic (2018) Henrietta Maria 

Was James I murdered?

king-james1James I died in March 1625. It wasn’t long after that that Dr Eglesham suggested that James had been poisoned by his favourite – the Duke of Buckingham pictured at the start of this post.  Eglesham helpfully produced a pamphlet entitled The Forerunner of Revenge which helpfully outlined his claims. But could James’ favourite really have killed the man who raised him from comparative poverty to being one of the wealthiest men in the country – not to mention one of the most powerful.

 

James, who was not a healthy man, fell ill with tertian ague and took to his bed.  Tertian fever was a kind of malaria but it, mostly, wasn’t fatal. He was given a remedy by George Villiers that involved a drink with a restorative and a plaster.  James’ condition declined quickly after George’s remedies. The restorative was a white powder and James regretted having taken it.

george villiersIt has been suggested that Villiers (pictured right) may have had form – his wife’s brother died in suspicious circumstances making her an heiress. And apparently the Marquess of Hamilton’s corpse didn’t behave as it should have – it was described as having swelled suggesting that the marquess may have been poisoned.

2ndMarquessOfHamilton.jpgJames Hamilton, for those who are interested, came to England with James in 1603.  He was part of the anti-war faction at court.  Buckingham and Hamilton had also had a bit of a spat in 1620 when Buckingham took exception to a comment about the sale of titles and advancement of men who did not have the requisite blood lines.  Buckingham felt that the snub was aimed at him and his extended family.

 

The main problem  in terms of George’s defence was that he did not apply medicines that James’ own doctors sanctioned. He’d sought a diagnosis of his own and paid a different doctor for the cure which he administered.  Eglesham not only took umbrage from this but also from the fact that as masters of the Goldbeaters’ Company his fortune has suffered a severe setback in 1621 when the king revoked their patent under pressure from Parliament.  Parliament didn’t have a grudge against the Goldbeaters or Eglesham they were seeking to control the power that George Villers had gained from the monopolies that the king had given to him during his rise to favour.

 

Nor did it help that Eglesham, a Scot, had just lost his key patron – the Marquess of Hamilton – yes, the chap with the bloated corpse.  One of the rumours was that Hamilton had been killed as part of a Catholic conspiracy. It was even suggested that Eglesham had secretly helped to convert Hamilton to Catholicism on his deathbed. This wasn’t good news either as England was on an anti-Catholic high following the disasterous trip by Charles and Buckingham to Madrid in 1623.  Eglesham, in fear for his life, fled to Brussels – and wrote the Forerunner of Revenge which was published in English and Latin.  It was widely read.

The Spanish were delighted with the book because it gave them an opportunity to destabilise England now that Charles and Buckingham had gone to war with the Hapsburgs – think of it as an early application of fake news.

Eglesham blamed Buckingham for his misfortunes, had laid the evidence of Buckingham’s crimes out in his text and now declared that it was Charles’ job to punish crime and uphold justice because without justice the Crown would fall.

As it happened Eglesham’s work would resonate through the period.  Charles’ loyalty to Buckingham saw him trying to protect the Duke from Parliament by dissolving Parliament when it sought to impeach his friend in 1626.  He  then raised revenues by other avenues than Parliament.  These to things  led to a failure of justice in terms of the “crimes” which Buckingham had committed by his foreign policy and his continued power not to mention the failure in justice when Charles had members of the gentry imprisoned without trial for their failure to pay his forced loans.

Whether Buckingham actually did kill James is another matter entirely – but a grand read for fans of conspiracy theories. Certainly Parliament took the view that there was no smoke without fire when it came to their impeachment attempt in 1626.

Bellamy, Alastair and Cogswell, Thomas (2015) The Murder of James I  New Haven: Yale University Press

Ruigh, Robert, E.(1971)  The Parliament of 1624: Politics and Foreign Policy Harvard: Harvard University Press.

By Robert E. Ruigh

A Parliamentary Protestation

torn journal.gifParliamentary independence of thought, which may run counter to what those in charge would like to happen, is nothing new.  In 1621 James I’s third Parliament was unhappy about the turn of events – relating to Europe as it happens. They had four main grievances: monopolies, sale of honours, corruption at court and James I’s pro-Catholic foreign policy.  This post deals mainly with the last grievance.

James had decided that his heir, Charles, should marry a Spanish bride.  The lure of a very large dowry and the thought of being seen as Europe’s peacemaker was sufficient for James to ignore Parliamentary anxiety about Protestant England allying itself with the Catholic Hapsburgs- who were busily engaged on the Thirty Years War against Europe’s Protestants at the time including James’ own son-in-law Frederick V of the Palatinate and King of Bohemia.

Many Members of Parliament not only opposed the so-called Spanish match but wanted to go to war with Spain – preferring a sea based campaign rather than a land war . They said as much in June and repeated it less politely on the 3rd December 1621.  James told them to mind their own business given that foreign policy was a royal prerogative.

Meanwhile James did need money because his son-in- law, Frederick V King of Bohemia had been toppled from his throne by the Hapsburgs and James needed to show his support by providing cash for him to regain the aforementioned throne.  This gave Parliament leverage because they would have to grant the subsidies for James to do this. Parliament took the opportunity to assert its rights. It declared they had rights and liberties to discuss matters even if they displeased the king. James was not terribly amused and answered that parliament did not have a right to discuss whether his son should marry a Spanish bride or not since foreign policy was the King’s business rather than Parliament’s and that further more whatever rights Parliament did have were in the king’s gift to give or remove as he saw fit.

In answer Parliament filed a “Great Protestation” of its rights and privileges on 18th December 1621.  They claimed that Parliament held its rights through tradition i.e. inheritance from one generation to the next in that their rights had been given to them by previous monarchs – and that they intended to keep them rather than see them eroded because the current monarch held different views on the matter:

… concerning sundry liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of parliament, amongst others not herein mentioned, do make this protestation following:—That the liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of parliament are the ancient and undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England; and that the arduous and urgent affairs concerning the king, state, and the defence of the realm, and of the church of England, and the making and maintenance of laws, and redress of mischiefs, and grievances which daily happen within this realm, are proper subjects and matter of counsel and debate in parliament; and that in the handling and proceeding of those businesses, every member of the house hath, and of right ought to have, freedom of speech to propound, treat, reason, and bring to conclusion the same: that the commons in parliament have like liberty and freedom to treat of those matters, in such order as in their judgments shall seem fittest: and that every such member of the said house hath like freedom from all impeachment, imprisonment, and molestation (other than, by the censure of the house itself), for or concerning any bill, speaking, reasoning, or declaring of any matter or matters, touching the parliament or parliament business; and that, if any of the said members be complained of, and questioned for any thing said or done in parliament, the same is to be showed to the king, by the advice and assent of all the commons assembled in parliament, before the king give credence to any private information.

 

king-james1James was not impressed not least because James had given instruction to Parliament previously and dealt, he thought, with those very same issues. He thought that Parliament was just trying to extend their role. They weren’t just saying they had the right to debate matters they were also saying that they had the right to pass laws having discussed matters first and at the bottom of it all lies the right to freedom of speech.  Furthermore James felt that Parliament were so busy trying to extend its rights that they weren’t actually doing very much that was actually useful.  He sent for John Wright who was the Clerk of the House at that time.  James then tore the record of the protestation from the Commons Journal.

charles i full lengthThe Parliament of 1621 had not been a good experience for James in that not only did they defy him over foreign policy and protest their rights but they had also sought to undermine the power base that George Villers, Duke of Buckingham (and James’ favourite) , had built up by impeaching two of the men that owed him patronage for corruption. Sir Francis Bacon was also impeached for corruption. In return for two subsidies Parliament demanded harsher penal laws. No wonder James dissolved Parliament at the beginning of January 1622 – but the tensions that would build during the early years of Charles I’s reign were already in place.

The so-called torn journal pictured at the start of this post is located in the National Archives. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/citizen_subject/docs/torn_document.htm

Henry Hallam, The Constitutional History of England from the Accession of Henry VII. to the Death of George II. (London: Ward, Lock, & Co.)

habeas corpus versus divine right

Habeas CorpusCharles I believed in the Divine Right of Kings – that is to say the absolute power of the monarch based on the so-called Great Chain of Being which essentially placed the king at the top of the food chain, next only to God – who had, after all, placed the king in the position and everyone else in their allotted place as well.  The concept of Divine Right was written about by James I of England VI of Scotland in a book entitled The True Law of Free Monarchies in 1598 (before he became King of England).  In the book James who clearly saw himself as something of a political theorist stated:

they make and unmake their subjects, they have power of raising and casting down, of life and death.

Taking that as a model Charles I was clearly well inside his self-perceived rights to lock up anyone who failed to do as he asked.  Thus he did not feel it unreasonable in 1627 when he levied a forced loan to arrest the men who failed to pay. Further to this it was clearly established that a “king must live of his own,” except in case of war when taxes would be levied by Parliament to pay for the aforementioned wars. Charles believed that the State had a duty to pay for the war and in levying the loan he was merely bypassing parliament which had unhelpfully tried to impeach his foremost adviser – the Duke of Buckingham. Not only that but Charles felt grieved that Parliament had not voted him the subsidies that were traditionally granted when a new monarch ascended the throne – they had given them to him for a limited time only.  The relationship between Crown and State was changing.

The previous three posts have dealt with the Five Knights Case.  Today, bypassing Sir Edmund Hampden (who shouldn’t be confused with John Hampden who was also locked up for refusal to pay the loan) we will finish the case with a very brief look at Sir Thomas Darnel or Darnell.  The Five Knights case is sometimes referred to as Darnel’s Case. Essentially like the other gentlemen Darnel, who was from Lincolnshire, was arrested because he failed to pay the King’s forced loan.  Like the other gentlemen he was called to the Privy Council and when he refused to pay the loan was confined to the Fleet Prison from where he sought a writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of his imprisonment.

 

The reason given for  Darnel’s arrest lay in the ubiquitous “reasons of state.” Essentially it was not illegal not to pay the forced loan because it had not been enshrined in law by Parliament – because Parliament had been dissolved in order to prevent the impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham.  The judges in the case did not wish to look too closely at the way in which Charles was using a medieval Royal prerogative  but stated that the arrests were legal because the authority of the Crown was in itself sufficient and with precedent.  Lord Hyde the King’s Justice stated that he was sworn to uphold the king’s rights and if the king said that he had arrested more than seventy gentlemen across the country for reasons of state it wasn’t up to Lord Hyde to say otherwise. It should also be noted that the judiciary had previously been threatened with dismissal by Charles when they initially questioned the legality of the forced loan.

Realistically Charles couldn’t conduct the war without raising taxation of some kind or other. The fact that Lord Hyde didn’t make a judgement on the matter which would have then become part of Common Law and open to challenge but issued his verdict as a “rule of court,” caused both Charles and his administration to be regarded with suspicion by parliament and increasing numbers of his subjects who didn’t take kindly to the forced loans in any event.

Unsurprisingly when Parliament was recalled in 1628 it drew up a Petition of Right which drew on the arguments that the five knights had made referencing Magna Carta and the right of habeas corpus which states that when arrested a person has the right to be tried to test whether the arrest is legal or not. The debate that followed aired the rights and liberties of  subjects against the Crown.  In asserting those rights Parliament had removed the lid from Pandora’s box so that when Charles went on to rule for elven years without Parliament using medieval rights in order to raise revenue the reason for discontent within the state had already been rehearsed and only became more heated with the passage of time.

Sir John Heveningham, another knight and his son William – regicide.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36Sir John was born in 1577 to a Norfolk family with a colourful pedigree – the Heveninghams claimed to be descended from one of the men who guarded Christ’s tomb.  More realistically they originated from Suffolk.

Suffice it to say the Heveninghams did all the usual things associated with county gentry i.e. education (in this case Cambridge), study of the law, JP, sheriff and member of parliament.

In January 1627, John Heveningham was summoned to appear before the Privy Council for his failure to pay Charles I’s forced loan.  He was packed off to the Marshalsea.  Being a gentleman it was assumed that he wouldn’t skip town so was allowed, in July, to take himself back to Norfolk to put his affairs in order.  Having done that he was placed under house arrest in Shropshire before being moved back to London once again for a stint in the Fleet Prison.

It was from the Fleet that Heveningham petitioned the King’s Bench for a bill of habeas corpus which would have tested whether or not he was being legally detained.  The matter was not resolved legally on account of the fact that the bench had no desire to alienate the king but Heveningham and his four companions were released at the beginning of 1628.

Heveningham found that becoming a jailbird had done his “street cred” the world of good in Norfolk where the king’s forced loan was deeply resented.  He was returned to Parliament on a wave of popular support.

Sir William HeveninghamHeveningham died in 1633. He was succeeded by his son William who was returned to Parliament in 1640.  He served on the committee of the Eastern Association during the English Civil War so was in all respects a parliament man until it came to signing the death warrant of Charles I – which he refused to do in his capacity of commissioner to the high court. Despite this William did agree the execution of the king in his role as member of parliament which was sufficient to make him a regicide.

Having disposed of the king William took a back seat in the running of the country but did manage to acquire rather a lot of sequestrated estates during the Commonwealth period.  Unfortunately for Heveningham the monarchy was restored in 1660 and whilst many things were conveniently forgotten regicide was not.  Heveningham surrendered himself, was put on trial and found guilty of treason for his part in Charles I’s death.  The fact that he had not signed the death warrant itself, together with his wife’s determined petitioning saw him being packed off to Windsor Castle where he remained until he died in 1678.

If you want an interesting and unexpected historical fact then it must be that Sir John Heveningham was a trustee of the Paston estate – his wife Bridget was a Paston – as in the fifteenth century letters family- demonstrating the small pool of  landed families in each county that intermarried over the centuries to create a tight knit network or a smouldering keg of interfamilial feuding.

As for William Heveningham, he married in 1650 to Mary Carey the daughter of the Earl of Dover. The earl was John Carey, a son of Henry  Lord Hunsdon – the son of Mary Boleyn…and potentially Henry VIII.

 

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/heveningham-sir-john-1577-1633

Walter Erle – knight

charles i full lengthWalter Erle is the second of the five knights who found themselves incarcerated in 1627.  There were only four men in Dorset who didn’t pay the forced loan demanded by Charles I in order to pay for his wars against the Spanish and the French. The other three were Sir John Strangeways, William Savidge and a man called Tregonwell. All four were arrested but none were put on trial as Charles I did not want the controversy of a judge disagreeing with his right to arrest people because they refused to lend him money. Savidge was sent to Clerkenwell Prison whilst the other three, inclusion Erle, were sent to the Fleet Prison.

Oxford educated Erle had also studied law at the Middle Temple which must have been helpful when he became  a JP and also Sheriff of Dorset. Charles I’s commissioner in Dorset, the Earl of Suffolk, might reasonably have expected Erle’s support in the collection of the loan but Erle had a reputation as a strong Parliament man ever since his election as an MP – when Charles I dissolved parliament in 1626 in order to avoid the Duke of Buckingham’s impeachment Erle was the MP for Lyme Regis.  Thus far his credentials are similar to almost any other member of the gentry.  It’s also worth noting that he invested in the Virginia Company.

Erle was one of the five knights who took a case of habeas corpus before the bench which stated that they should be tried by the court to ensure that they had been lawfully detained. Erle was released in January 1628 the judge in the case, Lord Hyde, having accepted the arrest on grounds of matters of state. The full story of  Erle’s deletion can be found in Walter Yonge’s diary.

Given his experiences it is perhaps not surprising that Erle was a Parliamentarian. He took part in the English Civil War, notably the Siege of Corfe Castle which was defended by Lady Mary Bankes.  Erle and is men took part in the looting and slighting of the castle.  Sir Ralph Bankes pursued the matter through the court once peace was restored and although Erle admitted that five or six cart loads of timber and masonry had come into his hands he denied that Bankes should expect restitution.

 

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/member/erle-sir-walter-1586-1665

History

Sir John Corbet – and the Five Knights Case

King-Charles-ICharles I dismissed Parliament in 1626 because it was rather keen on the idea of impeaching the Duke of Buckingham for his incompetence in the handling of foreign policy not to mention his influence over Charles I.  The king, on the other hand, wished to preserve his favourite so dissolved Parliament and its radically minded members.  Unfortunately Buckingham had dragged Charles into a war against both the Spanish and the French which was a costly exercise and which Charles could not afford – hence the need to call Parliament to raise the cash.

Charles dealt with his problem by raising Forced Loans.  Essentially wealthy folk were required to dip into their pockets and “lend” the king money.  It was generally accepted that loan was an euphemism for taxation.  The king could not have managed this himself. He used the administrative system that had been in place since before the Norman Conquest i.e. the county administrative system based on sheriffs and justices of the peace.  During the first year of the loan in excess of £250,000 was raised.  It is perhaps unnecessary to say that the loan and the commissioners who raised the money were not terribly popular.

Seventy-six gentlemen across the country refused to pay and were carted off to their local jails as an example to the rest of their peers.   Sir John Corbet, a moderate sort of Puritan who represented Great Yarmouth in Parliament, took exception to the forced loans and was rather vocal in his objections.  He also refused to pay the £20.00 that his rateable value suggested that he could afford. This may have caused some familiar difficulty as his cousin Sir Andrew Corbet of Moreton Corbet was the commissioner in Shropshire collecting the taxes on behalf of the Earl of Northampton who was President of the Council for the Welsh Marches.

Sir John found himself in prison without any charges being drawn up against him.  This was strategic in that the king wanted some examples of what would happen if you weren’t loyal to the Crown but he was also bothered by the idea that if one of the gentlemen ended up in a courtroom that the judge might side with the accused. Thus the gentlemen sat in their cells at the king’s convenience.

Five of the imprisoned men – the five knights of the title brought a writ of habeas corpus.  One of them was Sir John Corbet. Essentially, habeas corpus is the writ which requires someone under arrest to be brought before a judge to demonstrate that their arrest is legal. Magna Carta was used as the precedent amongst other things during the trial to prove that the five knights detention was illegal.  The case did not go in the knights’ favour although the judges were sympathetic and refused to rule conclusively saying that the law required further clarification but that they could do no more because both James I and Elizabeth I were prone to arresting people without charges being drawn.  (Interestingly they were also prone to chopping off various bits of their prisoners’ anatomies but History does not record them as tyrants whilst Charles did none of the above and got labelled a tyrant – just a thought.)

Corbet was released at the beginning of January 1628 but died three weeks later from small pox contracted whilst in prison. As for Sir Andrew, he would vote for the  Petition of Rights when Parliament sat in 1628 and he would eventually lose faith in the Crown. In died in 1637.

The decline of witches

250px-Daemonologie1By 1619 James, according to Borman, was becoming skeptical about witches. None the less, events such as the Belvoir Witch Trial meant that witchcraft remained a topic of much interest.

 

I’ve posted about the Belvoir Witches previously but just a quick reminder, the Earl of Rutland’s two young sons died.  Blame was ultimately placed on Joan Flowers and her two daughters, Margaret and Philippa.  They had been dismissed from their posts at Belvoir accused of theft and had left muttering curses.  The family had fallen on hard times – probably because Joan’s husband, John, had died.  It was rumoured that the three women were offering a range of services to community – at any rate both daughters were described in the records as “abandoned and profligate.”  It probably didn’t help that Joan liked a good argument.

Then Henry Manners, Lord Ros died. The doctors had been unable to decide what his illness might have been.  Shortly after that the Earl of Rutland’s other son also died. Initially the earl and his wife Cecilia (incidentally a Tresham of Gunpowder Plot connections) didn’t believe that the deaths were witchcraft but ultimately the Flowers women were arrested and taken off to Lincoln for trial where they inevitably confessed.

However, times so far as James were concerned, were changing.  When the Leicestershire witch trials took place James was on progress and interrogated the women and their accusers.  They were released.  James was beginning to develop skepticism.  When he wrote a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer he made no mention to the existence of evil in the form of witches – as he lost interest so the number of witch trials declined. It was becoming more common to make jokes about witches rather than to string up hapless little old ladies who had the misfortune to be poor, ill looking cat owners. This was unfortunate for witch hunters who were usually paid by result which probably accounts for the fact that once one was discovered several more popped up in the same place.

Some of the women accused of witchcraft now took the opportunity to take their accusers to court.  One of them Agnes Fenn, a Norfolk widow of mature years, went to the Star Chamber and named the men who’d set upon her, beaten her, forced her to sit on knives and set off gunpowder in her face in an effort to make her confess to being a witch. Despite having been terrorised and stabbed in the face the Norfolk gentlemen who had carried out the attack declared themselves innocent of the accusation and Agnes received no further redress – demonstrating that being old and poor wasn’t a good starting point from which to hope for justice.

By the 1630’s killing witches was almost a thing of the past – but then the English Civil War came along and with one thing and another witch hunting once more became a popular pastime.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s treason

William_Segar_Sir_Walter_Raleigh_1598On Thursday 17th November 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh was tried at Winchester for his part in the Main Plot. The jury took 15 minutes to arrive at their verdict and even Lord Coke the attorney general was taken by surprise at the speed of the delivery – he was still taking a stroll round the gardens when the jury returned.  No one was particularly surprised by the outcome, probably least of all Sir Walter, but the consensus was that he had arrived in Winchester one of the most disliked men in the kingdom but departed as one of the most pitied.

Essentially Sir Walter was caught up by the Main Plot which conspired to kill James and his children and replace them with Arbella Stuart having been financed by the Spanish and the Hapsburgs. Much of the evidence against Raleigh was based on Lord Cobham’s evidence.

The King’s Sergeant when introducing the case announced that Cobham revered Raleigh and that the former was a simple untravelled man whilst Raleigh was much more worldly.

Raleigh defended himself ably and with humour noting that the entire content of his trial was based on hearsay by one man and that man had received a letter from his wife telling him to pin it on Raleigh.  He went on to say that under a law dating from the reign of Edward III that two men were required to condemn a man.  Coke, objected saying that horse thieves used that stratagem to avoid condemnation and that to argue against the king’s court on a point of law suggested treasonable intent in itself.

He continued to observe that he was not charged with the Bye Plot which was to kidnap James I – and that if he was part of the conspiracy why hadn’t he been trusted to take part in that particular hare-brained scheme.

Raleigh also made the very good point that the Spanish had never been his friends and that they didn’t look particularly kindly upon him in any event so to accuse him of being in cahoots with the Spanish verged upon the absurd.  He continued in that particular vein picking holes in the evidence and observing that he had thought that Lord Cobham was offering him a pension to work for peace- something that Cecil himself had accepted- so it was hardly treasonous.

Looking at the trial transcripts it is clear that under today’s laws the case would have been thrown out.  Somewhat ironically James and Cecil needed Raleigh out of the way so that they could make peace with the Spanish.